- The Phillips School District covers 600 square miles, which means a lot of time on the bus for many students, and high fuel costs for the district. So this year Phillips is trying something new in hopes that investing a little extra money now pays off down the road.
The Phillips School District bought two new buses for this school year. Both buses run entirely on propane, rather than diesel.
A propane bus costs just a little more than $93,000. That is $8,000 more than the cost of a diesel bus. But the district says in the long term, propane is more cost effective.
"The difference in maintenance is definitely a cost savings, and then the amount of money you have to put into repairs of the exhaust system long term is one of the concerns that we had," said Phillips School District Superintendent Rick Morgan.
Jason McMillan, the lead driver for the district, says a propane bus uses about half the oil of a diesel bus.
The district says lower maintenance costs are not the only benefit of propane buses.
"The heat's a little bit better, we think, than the traditional bus," Morgan said. "The heating system is laid out a little bit differently and, because of the nature of the propane engine, it's quieter."
Morgan says students find their rides are more comfortable. Drivers say the quieter engine provides more peace of mind.
"The quietness of the engine, you can hear the children better behind you. Even though some children still scream or whatever, you can still hear them better," said McMillan.
The Phillips School District gets one new bus each year. Morgan says next year's bus will probably run on propane too.
"We're just looking to try and run the fleet a little bit more cost effectively," said Morgan.
It's the start of a new trend McMillan thinks could run well into the future.
"I am very excited to replace some new ones and retire some of our older ones in the fleet," he said.